Dr. Robert Watson dedicated his life to the pursuit of providing the best possible care for his patients. On Nov. 12, his loved ones say that pursuit came to a peaceful end.
The Medical Center at Bowling Green’s chief of anesthesiology from 1989 to 2016, Watson passed away at his home in Bowling Green on Nov. 12 after being diagnosed with lung cancer less than two months ago.
He was 87.
His daughter, Elizabeth Watson, said he was well-known not only locally but throughout the country.
In his 22-year career in the U.S. Army, Watson received commendations including the Vietnam Service Medal; Meritorious Unit Citation; Army Commendation Medal; Meritorious Service Medal and the Legion of Merit for developing a concept of providing cardiopulmonary resuscitation for use Army-wide.
He will receive military honors at the conclusion of his funeral Saturday.
“He had so many accomplishments, but the man he was is what I hope he will be remembered for,” Elizabeth Watson said. “He really was a friend to everyone he met. He often treated people at no charge, and he was a really good father. He was a huge animal lover. He just lived a life of service really his entire life.”
Originally a native of Henderson, KY., Robert Watson’s passion for service was first observed in Vietnam where he became concerned with the medical needs of wives and children of South Vietnamese soldiers.
He made it his mission to build a clinic, provide a source of potable water, immunize children and provide milk by starting a dairy herd.
“He had all these accomplishments, but he was very humble,” Elizabeth Watson said. “Some people may have known, but he was a great storyteller. He wasn’t boastful at all, and he treated all people the same. He probably knew everyone at the hospital. He wasn’t your typical physician. It was a life well-lived more than any person I’ve ever known.”
During his service at Walter Reed Medical Center and the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., he developed policies and procedures for the pain clinic as well as new drugs and techniques for pain relief.
He was a widely published inventor who held numerous U.S. and Canadian patents, including one for the Inject-Safe Barrier Bandage. The bandage is self-sealing and is currently being used at a number of pharmacies nationwide with the administration of influenza and COVID-19 vaccinations.
Hospice of Southern Kentucky Medical Director Dr. Michael Byrne worked in the same operating room as Robert Watson for several years and became a close friend.
Byrne said he personally attended to his friend by serving as his hospice doctor until the very end of Robert Watson’s life.
“It was my great privilege, really,” Byrne said. “We all look for heroes to emulate, and honestly I have met few men like Bob. He was truly a man I thought was worth emulating in many ways. Nobody is perfect, but he inspired so many people just by his everyday life. He was a great listener and he respected everyone. He was an inspiration to all doctors that met him.
“He is the idea of what a physician was supposed to be,” Byrne said. “It was always about the patient with Bob. He was an advocate for them. That’s the gift that Bob gave our community. He had a remarkable spirit, and I can’t say enough about him.”
Byrne said Robert Watson was willing to take calls late into the night at The Medical Center at Bowling Green late into his 70s.
“I don’t know anyone that old that agreed to take a call at night,” Byrne said. “He was the most willing and anxious to help in anyway possible. He was always willing to get it done.”
Local nurse anesthetist Keith Norman shared an office at The Medical Center at Bowling Green with Robert Watson for 27 years.
Norman said within that time, Robert Watson became his mentor and friend.
“Anyone sharing a small office with someone for that long and not going crazy says everything about him,” Norman said with a laugh. “We could write several books of all the ins and outs about him. Every day with him was a blast. I don’t remember any bad days with him.
“I am so, so blessed to have worked with him. I would do it all over again,” Norman said. “He knew how to treat people. He truly cared about his patients. Everyone was his equal, and that’s something you strive to want to continue yourself. If he ever got mad, it was followed by an apology within minutes. That’s just some of the things I would try to incorporate in my life.”
—Watson’s full obituary appeared in Wednesday’s Daily News.
– Follow reporter John Reecer on Twitter @JReecerBGDN or visit bgdailynews.com.